Ambrose Finished First 500 Mile Sprint Cup Event at Auto Club Speedway
Fontana, CA (August 31, 2008)-Driver of the Wood Brothers Racing no. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion. Marcos Ambrose finished his first 500 mile NASCAR Sprint Cup event in California for the Pepsi 500 in 32nd place. The race began during the day under hot conditions and ended at night when temperatures dropped. The team was faced with the challenge of making significant changes to car throughout the race and on every pit stop, they did just that; the no. 21’s performance improved over every lap.
Ambrose started the 250 lap event in the 40th position. The first caution occurred on lap four and the team used the opportunity to make their first pit stop. Marcos reported that the no.21 was a little tight. The 21 crew made some adjustments and sent Ambrose back to the track where he restarted 39th on lap eight.
On lap 42 Marcos was running in the 40th spot when the yellow flag flew again. He reported that the car was still tight, but it was now loose off and needed more “rear” grip. He said “I feel like it’s raining, it’s sliding all over.” Crew Chief David Hyder called for the 21 to come down pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and more adjustments. During the pit stop, the “over the wall” crew quickly made the requested changes and gained seven spots on the scoreboard. Marcos restarted in 33rd on lap 45.
The caution flag flew once again on lap 68 when Marcos was scored in the 35th spot. He radioed to the crew, “This is the best the car has been all weekend, I need just a little more of what you did before.” Hyder decided to pit for tires, fuel and go just a little further with the adjustments. He was sent back to the track in 32nd where he took the green flag on the restart on lap73.
On lap 111 the 21 was scored in the 29th spot. With the long green flag run, the team needed to make a pit stop under the green flag for four tires and fuel. Ambrose returned to the track in 39th.
As he worked his way through the field, he reported a tight condition on lap 118. He was able to maneuver his way up to 33rd but went one lap down to the leader when the caution flag came out for debris on lap 149. The no 21 came in to pit for more adjustments and to get the car set for the cooling track. The 21 crew again made a fast pit stop and sent Ambrose back to the track in 29th. The race restarted on lap 151. After working around lead lap cars, he settled back in the 32nd spot. Caution on lap 160 gave him another opportunity to give more feedback as the night sky set in. He told the crew that he was experiencing a tight condition and that they may have over adjusted on the last stop. He came down pit road where the team made other adjustments; Marcos restarted 34th on lap 165.
On lap 180, Marcos worked up to the 27th position when the caution flag flew once again. Hyder radioed to the team, “The lap times are showing a 20th place car”. The crew made more adjustments, changed four tires, added fuel and sent Marcos back to the track in 30th.
On lap 217, Marcos brushed the wall and caused the final caution flag of the night; he was running 28th. There wasn’t any visible damage and the team brought him down pit road for another adjustment, tires and fuel. He went back out to the track but Hyder brought him back down pit road to make sure there was no damage that would cause a tire to rub. He restarted in 38th on lap 222. In the final laps of the race Marcos made his way up to 32nd, where he took the checkered flag.
After completing the event Marcos said,“I’ve finished my first 500 mile race and it was definitely a long race out there.” He added, “We raced well out there and that’s all you can ask for. We improved so much from start to finish. It began to tighten up quite a lot as the sun went down but that was expected. We came a long way over the course of the three days here and I think we’ve got a clear direction moving forward. There were some changes and decisions we made that really got it going out there and I’m pleased for the entire Wood Brothers team. I was out there passing guys like Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, those sort of Chase drivers in the second half of the race. We were a lap down in the second half of the race but our car speed really gave me confidence.”
He also spoke about theincident that brought out the final caution,
“I had a touch with the wall through (Turns) Three and Four there towards the end but it wasn’t too bad. It dropped us back down the order and in the end if probably cost us a bunch of positions. But the pace was there and we past a lot of cars back and that’s pleasing.It’s great to finish one of these Cup deals on this sort of big, fast track. The confidence I gained and the things we learned are really invaluable moving forward.”
Wood Brothers Racing will travel to Richmond International Raceway for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 on Saturday, September 6 with Bill Elliott behind the wheel of the no. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion.